The Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony – “Ipse harmoniaest”.
He is indeed harmony. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization.
But if instead we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit.
Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are very dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community – the Apostle John tells us in his Second Letter - and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 1:9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?
Pope Francis, Homily, Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013
Reflection – This is an incredibly balanced and sane presentation of the whole question of unity-in-diversity in the Church. This week has seen a great deal of internet kerfuffle about Pope Francis’ remarks on atheists and redemption. In my typical contrarian fashion I have chosen not to blog about those remarks, on the sound principle that everyone else is saying everything else that needs to be said, so what’s left?
But I have to admit, I’m a bit baffled at how people are astounded (!), baffled (!), perplexed (!), shocked (!!!) at these various remarks by the pope. As far as I can figure out, he is stating fairly conventional Catholic doctrines, and doing so in a fairly simple, straightforward way. It is usually not a great shocking baffling astounding perplexing matter to learn that the Pope is Catholic. I even believe there is a proverb to that effect, often accompanied by one concerning the locative properties of ursine excretion. (What and where Catholic bears do is a matter I will not delve into here. This is a family blog.)
Ahem. So here we see the Pope’s Catholicity in another expression. The Spirit brings diversity, but always within the Church. The Spirit has manifold gifts, charisms, and graces which create a beautiful harmony, but the melody to that harmony is always our holy Catholic faith handed down to us from the apostles. There is a rich polyphony of instrument and voice in the life of the Church, but the conductor drawing all these diverse musicians together into a symphony is the teaching magisterium of the Church.
But the conductor is not the composer. The magisterium has a task of unity so as to safeguard the beauty of the harmony of the Church, but it does not create that harmony, does not write the notes. That is the mission of the Spirit in the world, and it is a mission ongoing in each of our hearts.
We have to get as clear in our own minds about this as we can be, since the world is anything but clear about it and shows no signs of moving in that direction. The magisterium—the pope and the bishops together—is a servant of the Spirit and of the whole Body of Christ in all its diversity. But this service may and at times does take the form of disciplining, of correcting, even of ‘silencing’ a discordant oboe or out of tune tuba. Of course, the Church has no police force, no prison system, no control of public media, so 'silencing' is a relative term here, to say the least. (I will never forget the dissident theologian taking out a full page ad in the New York Times blaring "I HAVE BEEN SILENCED!")
For us second clarinets or third trumpets, our call is to give our whole heart and soul, our entire breath, to the notes, the beauty, that the Spirit is giving us to play in our lives, but always with our eyes on the director, the conductor, always ready to be ‘harmonized’ in the life of the Church by its leaders, never stepping out as a solo act, but also never retreating into passivity and sullen silence when we can’t play our part exactly as we envisioned.